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October 10, 2018

Adia Barnes

Aarion McDonald

Sam Thomas

San Francisco, California

ADIA BARNES: I can say I'm truly excited to be here, excited for another year of the best conference in the country, Pac-12 basketball. And I think last year I just said excited, but this year I'm truly excited. I think there's a lot of exciting things and just happy to just bring these two wonderful young ladies here and just really, really excited for what's coming in our league, in our conference.

Q. Coach, you did a great job on the recruiting trail, having one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Kind of a two-part question. I want to ask you about the freshmen, what you expect from them this year and the transfers you have eligible and what they're going to bring to this team.
ADIA BARNES: Okay. The first thing, the recruiting class, all the rankings, we don't pay attention to a lot of that. But my main thing was to recruit players that fit what we do and just fit everything that we're about. So getting Cate Reese was huge for us, the school's first McDonald's All-American. So that was really a big plus for us.

But like all of that doesn't mean anything until they actually come play and have to produce on the floor. But she's someone that I was really attracted to before because she's such a fierce competitor. So she was someone that was going to shift us culture-wise, and for me culture is the most important thing. The other thing in-state. It was very, very important for me as a head coach to be able to recruit in Arizona. There is, though, tremendous amount of talent but when there is talent we need to try to get it and keep it home. And so Bryce was a really good shooter and some other things that we didn't have.

And then from Washington Shaylse Smith, also a really good competitive player with a chip on her shoulder that I had known since seventh grade. So I was really happy when I got her to come all the way to Arizona, never thought she'd actually leave the state of Washington. And to finish that class we have Semaj Smith. So there was a lot of connection there. So to get her and she had all Pac-12 offers also. So for her to come to Arizona was another plus. I thought it would be hard to get her out of California.

And then it was a loss for us to not get Valeria Trucco. She was a five star international kid that brought us the ability to shoot the ball from the post position. So that hurt us, but I think that's what happens sometimes with international recruits. Now it happens with domestic recruits. So that kind of hurt our class.

But I think what we have, the four freshmen, we're excited. There's definitely a difference in our freshmen last year versus this year just as far as the group and the culture and everything, and some of that is because of the three players I had sitting out. So Aarion, one of those players sitting out last year, she was able to practice all year. So she was able to bring so much to the table just practicing.

The bad thing about last year was every day in practice I got to see Aarion, Tee Tee and Dominique play and just kick the butts of the team and I was like, if you could only play. So that was kind of hard. But I'm just excited because they all grew in the year they were out. They all improved on their body, they improved on their game, so to add them this year. And the other thing that I noticed from the three of them that were sitting out is they're more hungry this year. So last year they sat out, they got to see things, watch body language, and they got to see how we face adversity and I think they call grew mentally from that. So I'm just excited they can play again because it changed a lot of things.

So not only do we have four freshmen but we're inserting three transfers. So we're inserting seven new players into our team this year and that's a lot. So there's been a lot of work to do and I'm excited to do it this year.

Q. I'm always curious to know, this is for the players, for Sam and Aarion, just talk about what areas of your game you most focused on this past summer to develop the upcoming season. I'm always kind of curious to know what players are working on over the summer to get ready for the season?
AARION MCDONALD: So this past summer I worked on balance. Like if somebody knocks me over, make sure I don't fall. So balance is very important. Worked on my shot, and I worked on being crafty, worked on moves with my position coach.

SAM THOMAS: I would say my ball handling this year. Now that we have more posts and the transfers that came in, I don't have to battle so much down below. I can kind of step out more and show my ball handling and shooting more often now.

Q. I wanted to talk about the speed of the game. We had just talked with Scott Rueck right before this and the physical play. I know you are somebody who likes to mix with size and personnel that you have?
ADIA BARNES: Last year we tried to put pressure but it didn't really work. We just didn't have the depth and the personnel. I think Aarion changes that dynamic. She's so athletic, so fast and she does so many different things so she allows us to extend our defense because of her ability.

And Sam Thomas she got a lot of deflections last year playing at the five and the four. But I think just with the personnel we can play a little bit faster, not only playing faster but being able to convert points. We played 80 possessions last year, but we weren't efficient on scoring. So this year trying to find ways to manufacture more points.

So Aarion will be the catalyst for that and she just changes things. So she can extend pressure. She can pick the ball up, so we will do some of that. We won't have 40 minutes of full-court basketball. But we will have more pressure, we'll have more ball pressure. We'll play a little faster and we wouldn't be able to if we didn't have someone like Aarion.

Q. I was wondering for all you guys, you guys are picked tenth despite all the new talent you have coming in. I'm wondering how you feel about that, and is that frustrating in a league like this which is so good that even if you improve -- do you think you may be better than that?
ADIA BARNES: For me it didn't bother me at all because I've been the underdog my whole life. For me I like it. I don't mind where you're picked in the beginning. It just matters where you finish. It didn't really surprise me. I didn't really expect to be much higher. I thought ninth or tenth was probably about where we were going to be picked because even though you have a lot of talent coming in we're still young, and I think that our league is so competitive and so much parity in the league, it is hard to go up it would or three spots.

So I think for us we have goals and we'll try to reach our goals and I think we'll just do what we do every day. I'm not going to pay attention to a lot of rankings and the bottom line is we gotta go out and prove it on the court. But I know that we're much better than last year. I know that we're going to be more competitive just because we have more depth. And I think for us it's just being the underdog is fine. I think it's actually more fun that way.

Q. Manufacturing points, Aarion, you sat out last year and Sam, you played an awful lot as a freshman. You guys need more support, but Aarion this is your first year. What are your expectations to put more points on the board? How is the team going to do that?
AARION MCDONALD: For me as a point guard, my first thought is to get my teammates involved and put them in successful positions and once I get them going, then I will have a chance to look for my shot.

SAM THOMAS: I would say obviously we have the transfers and the freshmen talent coming in that can help score and personally for myself I'm going to try and work on increasing my averages from last year just to always improve and help my team out because I know we gotta get those points, so hopefully I can help out.

ADIA BARNES: I think one of the ways that Sam can really help there was one game I remember clearly against USC last year, and she was shooting the three a lot, and I'm like, why don't you shoot the three more? So just having her more comfortable and I think her playing more of the three position this year, she'll have more looks. But she's gotta be a player for us that can knock down three-point shots. And Aarion brings a scoring mentality, but also someone who can manufacture points defensively. She'll go up and get steals and take it coast to coast. So I think that changes what we do.

And Cate Reese, the freshman, she's super aggressive. Now we'll have to work on the first few games we're not fouling out, but that's going to be a learning curve. Reminds me a lot of Katie Collier from Washington. I think that competitive, fierce -- just what she has in her you can't teach. So I think that that's going to be exciting. So playing more aggressive defensively is something that suits us better.

Q. Aarion, so what are your personal goals for this year, for you personally you had to sit out. It's hard to sit out and watch. Right?

Q. So you had a very good freshman year when you were at UDUB. So what are your personal goals for this season?
AARION McDONALD: Just to become a vocal leader because I know I struggled with that my freshman year, and I just want to be that person like when the going gets tough, I just want to be that person that rallies my team through the storm and to put points on the board and help my teammates in any way I can to get the win and to create havoc on the defensive end. I want to get six steals a game, so hopefully I can do that.

ADIA BARNES: That sounds good to me.

Q. How would you characterize your team?
ADIA BARNES: I think we're hungry. We're hungry, and everything we're doing this year is competitive. And I think that just watching in the first like week or just throughout the summer, we would kind of sit and wait for someone else to do it. So I said, okay, how can I bring this competitive nature out. Some of them had it, but they were holding it back a little bit. I think that making everything competitive, making us -- it's okay to beat each other up at practice. It's okay, practice should make a game easy. So I would say hungry.

I think that when they see that we're tenth, I think they're going to be upset, and that's what I want. So it's a daily process. But I don't look at the long-term. We take it day by day. So the process of winning each day. And we talk about obstacles that come throughout the year and obstacles are lack of team chemistry or jealousness or not being -- all those things. So we talk about not letting the obstacles get in our way. We count on the number of practices before the first game and all those little things, because to me it's just a daily process and that's like on and off the court.

So it's not one ropes course. It's everyday things, small things that we do to get better, and I think we're just taking it day by day and I think they're hungry and I think it showed from the beginning. And I think it takes four or five years to really change a culture. But from year one to year two to now year three, it is a tremendous difference, and I think for me that's rewarding as a coach. And it's fun. It's fun to see that shift. It's not where it needs to be, but it's getting there, and I think that's exciting for me.

Q. (No microphone).
ADIA BARNES: I think it's great. I think right now it's the best fit it's been. And I think what I like is we're all former players. We all played at a high level or won at a high level. Morgan won three national championships. I've won a championship before. Salvo has won three gold medals and April has played in the WNB I like that. I like the former player because I like someone that has been where the players want to go. That's valuable to me. And I think just the fit is perfect for us. And I think that's one of the hardest things as a head coach, finding the fit of your staff I think is one of the hardest. And it doesn't seem like it, and people may say that you don't realize it till you get there. And we have a cohesive group now that gets it, on the same page. We love what we're doing.

Our most important team is our team. Recruiting will take care of itself when we start doing what we need to do with our culture. So I think that everything is where it needs to be, and I think that takes a lot of time. I think a lot of head coaches will say that.

Q. Adia, this is your third year. How have you changed or what do you think you've learned the most now as head coach?
ADIA BARNES: I think one of the ways that I've changed is you can't let all the little things bother you because literally you can be at work every day and be mad about 20 things a day. So I think it's just not letting -- or not being able to do every little thing, not saying yes to every single thing and just learning to take it day by day what's urgent and what's important. And those are two different piles for me and I've always valued my team is my most important team and I really always remind myself of that. I know we're going to get the players in. But this is my most important team.

I take care of them and then you worry about the other stuff later and people will come. When you have a great culture and you have a great team, it attracts other good players. So I think those things. And I don't think I understood in the beginning, I think when you're a first-time head coach you think you want one thing and you don't know what it is to actually get there. So you think you want one thing with your staff. You think you want a certain identity. I think it shifts because you realize what you're dealing with and what you need.

So the staff is one of the most important things, because I strongly feel that if you don't do it as a staff, you don't have the right culture, if you don't model it, your players aren't going to do it and your players are going to value what you value. So that's why to me the staff is the most important thing.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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